Privilege (Withdrawal Agreement: Legal Advice)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:22 pm on 4th December 2018.

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Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney 3:22 pm, 4th December 2018

And he is here today. He answered those questions with absolute honesty and candour, strikingly so, and he made a number of points on which Members will be reflecting. I apologise for summarising those points, but essentially, with regard to the backstop—he will correct me if I am wrong—there is a risk that it may be indefinite. When I asked him about it, he kindly agreed that that was a sound analysis. What he said can be summarised as “That is as far as the legal advice can go.” The disclosure of legal advice will not provide answers; it will only take the House’s consideration so far. After that, it is a political judgment. The political judgment that we must make over the next week is one for us: it is one for us on a political basis. It will not involve an answer being given on the basis of legal advice, whatever standpoint is taken on Brexit or on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.

Given that the legal advice will not provide an answer, Members ought not to continue to pursue its disclosure as if it will be a panacea that will provide something that we do not already know. We already have those points. We already understand the impact on what has been negotiated, because we can read it for ourselves in the withdrawal agreement. We understand what the Attorney General thinks, because he has told us. That is as far as legal advice can take us, because over the next week we will not be debating whether what the Government propose to do is legal; we will be debating whether or not it is something that we think the Government should do, as a matter of politics and policy, and that is wholly different.

As the Government have suggested, the Committee of Privileges is the right body to consider this matter. I ask the whole House to support the Government and not the Opposition.